Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Dance Party: The Jackpot Question In Advance

This week's Dance Party brought back lots of memories of this show, in which I appeared shortly before leaving Los Angeles for good.  Perfectly Frank was a musical revue of the work of Frank Loesser;  our company sang "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" as the centerpiece of the act one finale.
As the holiday season concludes, it's fitting that this week's Dance Party feature a song associated with New Year's Eve. 
Frank Loesser wrote Guys and Dolls, How To Succeed..., The Most Happy Fella, and Where's Charley?, as well as a slew of songs for movies and as stand-alone tunes.  He wrote two songs which have become inexorably linked to the holidays, though he meant neither one of them to become holiday warhorses.  "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" are now holiday standards.  It particularly galled Frank that the latter was sung at Christmastime, as he wrote it to be sung in the spring.  Note the opening line, "Maybe it's much too early in the game."  These days, that lyric is presumed to mean that it's too early in the relationship to be making plans for New Year's Eve, but no, Loesser meant it literally to mean too early in the year.
Frank Loesser wrote this tune back in 1947 and, much to his chagrin, it immediately became a holiday standard.  Everybody and his brother has recorded this song. 
When Barbra Streisand recorded a Christmas album way
back in 1967, the thing went quintuple-platinum.
Everybody forgot she was a Jewish girl from Brooklyn
and she was crowned the Queen of Christmas Music.
Her second holiday album, above, features this week's

Old timers such as Margeret Whiting and Dick Haymes brought the song to the public in the late 40s, but it may have been Nancy Wilson's version, released in the mid-60s, which put the tune in the standard holiday repertoire. 
Rod Stewart not only co-opted the song, he snatched
Ella Fitzgerald's performance of it, and with tech
slight-of-hand, recorded a duet with the long dead diva.

Johnny Mathis, Barry Manilow, The Carpenters, Donny Osmond, Bette Midler, Harry Connick, Patti LaBelle, even Chicago all took their turn. 

Our Dance Party clip is responsible for bringing new attention to the song.  A few years ago,Zooey Deschanel teamed up with her friend Joseph Gordon-Levitt to publish a sweet little rendition on YouTube. 
Nobody cares who this guy is, but the fact that he is
holding a ukulele can be blamed on this week's Dance
Party clip.

The popularity of the clip soared, with over 13 million views, and now, the Internet is thoroughly cluttered with all manner of amateurs accompanying themselves on the ukulele.  I wonder what Frank Loesser would think about that?  But why worry about such things, let's just wish everyone a Happy New Year, and hope everyone has a special somebody to kiss at midnight on New Year's Eve. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Dance Party: A Boy And His Drum

This holiday Dance Party takes place at Arlington Cemetery.  And also the White House.
It took me a while to become a fan of Christmas music. 

Sure, I suppose I liked it as a kid, but I quickly lost any affection for carols when I got a job in the Sears Complaint Department in my freshman year of college.  My store was located at a mall rather pompously called the Northridge Fashion Center, and for the first few years I worked there, we actually had a department which sold pianos and organs. 
You might think holiday music
played on the organ would be fun.
You'd be wrong.

The Christmas music, which back then began the day after Thanksgiving, was inescapable, and even after that organ dept shut down, the Muzak in the store, and the Muzak in the mall itself, was unrelenting.  I worked at that Sears, part-time, for a whopping 15 years, so by the time I quit, I had had it with malls in general and Christmas music in particular.

Vince Guaraldi renamed my favorite song
"My Little Drum." His jazzy adaptation
is not heard onscreen, but it helps
fill out this soundtrack album.

Ah, but it was only a little while before, like one of those sheep being watched by shepherds by night, I was led back into the fold.  I have a fairly substantial collection of holiday recordings (well, four or five dozen), which I break out soon after Halloween (yes, I'm a Christmas Creeper) and keep on rotation until New Year's.

I have a favorite Christmas song, and my affection for this ditty can be traced directly to this guy:
The Little Drummer Boy began its life as a song, but it eventually followed in the footsteps of Rudolf and Frosty and became a TV special.  As scripted by Romeo Muller, it may not have been ready for prime time.  Muller had huge success transferring Rudolf from turntable to TV, but he went considerably darker in tone with this one.  Our hero is orphaned by a gang of thieves, who slaughter his parents and burn down the farm.  Merry Christmas, kids!  After some nasty misadventures with a carnival owner, the Boy, biblically named Aaron, follows That Star to Bethlehem, hoping to heal his injured lamb (yes, it's a story about a boy and his sheep, alert the fetishists).  He has no gift to give the newborn messiah except a song on his drum, which does the trick.  Bah rum ba bum bum.
After airing The Little Drummer Boy annually for years, NBC began to get complaints that the story reflected racist, anti-Arab values, and I don't disagree with that. 
Jose Ferrar voiced the villain and gave rise to
accusations of racism.  The show included
elegantly smooth narration by Greer Garson.

That may be one reason the program, from the prolific Rankin-Bass studio, is not as fondly remembered as Rudolf and others in their catalogue.  The show is also centered squarely on the religious story of the first Christmas, as opposed to other beloved Christmas specials which focused on reindeer, snowmen, and towns Santa forgot.

I haven't seen this program in many years, and I never hear anyone making an appointment to watch it on TV these days (it is run on ABC Family now).  But the song, which was a hit long before it was translated to television, continues to be one of the most recognizable of Christmas Carols. 
If you hate the Drummer Boy, blame the
Von Trapps. They took a Czech folk song and
turned it into the current tune.

For many years, "The Little Drummer Boy" was recorded strictly by choirs, and truthfully, it sounds a little less silly if a big group is intoning "barumb ba bum bum..."  But once Bing Crosby wrapped his bingle around it, every solo artist on the planet barumped their bum bum with it.  The usual holiday suspects like Johnnie Mathis, Andy Williams, and Rosemary Clooney all took their turn, and Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, Glen Campbell, and Johnny Cash soon got into the act.  I can only imagine what the versions by Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix, and Ringo Starr sound like.  RuPaul sang it, as did Marlene Dietrich (hers was in German, and who doesn't enjoy a German Christmas song?).  Grace Jones sang it on Pee Wee's Playhouse, and the Animaniacs went back in time and sang it for the baby Jesus, just like our Drummer Boy.
Researching this entry required me to watch many, many versions of "The Little Drummer Boy."  This famous (or infamous) duet on Bing Crosby's final Christmas special almost turned me against my favorite song.  The story goes that Bowie hated the song, but agreed to duet only if he could sing counterpoint with "Peace On Earth."
This very special Dance Party deserves a Very Special Episode, which The West Wing gives us, courtesy of its first season.  A children's choir sings the song as the episode wraps up with a funeral for a homeless veteran. 
The president's secretary Mrs. Laningham also attends the
funeral. In an earlier scene, in her quietly reserved way, she
relates the story of the deaths of her twin sons in Vietnam
on Christmas Eve, 1970.

Aaron Sorkin won an Emmy for writing this episode, and Richard Schiff also won for his performance in it.  This clip reinforces my faith in the ability of music to heighten emotion, and restores "The Little Drummer Boy" to the top of my Christmas Hit Parade.  Happy Hols, everybody!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Friday Dance Party: On The Morrow

Karen Morrow in I Had A Ball.
This week's Dance Party is actually last week's.  In the spirit of "the dog ate my homework," this website ate my final draft, and I was so pissed I gave up.  But our star turned 77 last week, and she's been one of my favorites for decades, so she deserves some Dance Party love, even a week late.
If this is how you know Karen Morrow, you're missing out.  About 5 years after sitcom smash Bewitched left the airwaves, it was somebody's bright idea to create a sequel of sorts.  Pre-teen Tabitha, daughter witch in the series, was given a case of what is known in daytime TV as SORAS (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome), and became a girl in her 20s, seeking a career and a love life (think That Girl without the charm).  None of the surviving principles from Bewitched wanted anything to do with this thing, though I've read that Bernard Fox's Dr. Bombay made a few appearances, as did the nosy neighbors the Kravitzes.  The show lasted only one season, and included in its cast Karen Morrow, playing Aunt Minerva, who seemed to be an amalgamation of Bewitched's Aunt Clara and Endora.  I'm sad to report that this was Karen's only sustained national attention.  She continued to guest on various sitcoms and variety shows, but her first love remains where she belongs, the stage.
Karen Morrow was the go-to belter on Broadway during the 60s, starring in a string of unfortunate shows for which she received glowing reviews.  She never had that big hit which may have insured her name be remembered, though in truth, the era in which Broadway stars became household names had already passed.  Still, our Karen should be better known today than she is, and I'm sorry that, if people remember her, it's likely to be for that silly sitcom above.

Morrow did have some success with revivals, such as this Off-
Broadway mounting of Boys from Syracuse.  She also added
her signature belt to a string of shows at City Center, including
The Most Happy Fella.  But her Broadway resume does not
measure up to her talent.

Regrettably, her Great White Way endeavors aren't well-remembered, though her debut may have had some traction had it not been for her temperamental costar.  I Had A Ball took place at Coney Island, and was structured around the questionable talents of comic Buddy Hackett. 

Undisciplined comics such as Buddy Hackett have no business attempting the focused marathon of a Broadway run.  It was his first attempt at a book show, and his lack of training (or sustainable talent, if you asked me) caused him to become bored with the 8-show-a-week routine.  He soon started acting up, inserting his own smutty material into what was meant to be a family show.  I Had A Ball lasted only a few hundred performances.
Nobody could get this one to work.

Our Karen was also part of the prestigious flop The Grass Harp, which included in the cast Barbara Cook (in her final book musical to date), with Truman Capote providing the source material.  This one lasted only a week on Broadway, but the character Morrow created, an over-the-top evangelist named Miss Babylove, stopped the show with her number. 
Though it lasted only a week on Broadway, The Grass Harp's Miss Babylove had a bit of an afterlife.  The show actually began in Michigan, but when it transferred to New York, original star Celeste Holm was deemed too weak of voice and too old of age, so the role went to Karen.  The show has been attempted since, with Elaine Stritch playing Babylove, and believe it or not, Cass Elliot was set to make her musical theatre debut in the role before the funding dried up.  Not a bad legacy for a one-week wonder.
I first came across Karen Morrow too many years ago to count, on a syndicated talk show helmed by Steve Allen.  I still remember wondering who the hell this powerhouse singer was, as she belted a remarkable rendition of "Time After Time." 
Karen Morrow at her best: belting a showtune.

I started to bump into Ms. Morrow on other talk shows, particularly Merv Griffin's, who was smart to make good use of her as a singer and lively conversationalist.  There used to be several nice clips of her appearances on YouTube, but those have recently been removed for copyright reasons.  I hate that.
Everybody in the business of musical theater loves Karen Morrow.  Here she is with her best buddy Nancy Dussault, Joanne Worley, and Jason Graae peeking overhead.
I was lucky enough to see Karen Morrow twice in person (so far).  The second time I saw her was in a big revival of Sondheim's Follies in Long Beach, CA, in the mid-90s. 
Karen's buddy Charles Nelson Reilly had better luck.  He
was able to transfer his Broadway stardom to TV. They
can be heard singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" on an album
of Broadway folks, recorded for AIDS charities.

That show was headlined by Juliet Prowse (a previous visitor to the Dance Party) and Shani Wallis, and included in its cast opera legend Yma Sumac and a very, very, VERY old Dorothy Lamour (sidebar: Lamour was so old she could not remember her lyrics.  She toddled out to center stage, led by a chorus boy, stood stock still and warbled "Broadway Baby" with the conductor shouting her next lyrics from the pit. Sad.  But unforgettable).  Anyway, our Karen belted out "I'm Still Here;"  there is a grainy clip of that performance here.

This is the show I saw years ago at
Studio One in West Hollywood.

But the first time I saw Karen Morrow live was more special.  She teamed up with her friend Nancy Dussault (another 60s Broadway stalwart who appeared on this Dance Party) for a cabaret act which they have performed time to time over the years.  I saw an early version of it in West Hollywood, years and years ago.  Studio One was the big dance club of L.A. at the time, catering to partying gays, and the owners had created a small cabaret room adjacent to the main club.  Neither room was soundproofed, so anyone performing in The Backlot, as the cabaret was called, had to put up with that unrelenting disco bass beat which shook the walls.  It was a noble effort, that cabaret room.
This is the annual float from Studio One for the annual Gay Pride parade, peopled with employees and clientele.  I used to giggle at the thought of the upscale cabaret audience bumping into these scantily clad boys in the hallways leading to the bathrooms, which both rooms in the club shared.
As for Karen and Nancy, they gave a dynamite show.  Their talents complimented each other beautifully, and were reminiscent of Mary Martin and Ethel Merman performing together (in fact, the centerpiece of their routine was the long duet those two earlier divas had performed back in the 1950s, when they were the Queens of Broadway).
Morrow has had a nice career on regional stages and on tour, playing all the big brassy dames of Broadway's Golden Age.  This is Dolly, of course, but she also played Reno Sweeney, Annie Oakley, Molly Brown,  Mrs. Lovett, Oliver's Nancy and Call Me Madam's Sally Adams.
Over the years, Karen has become an expert interpreter of Jerry Herman's music, and has appeared in many tribute concerts and cabaret evenings which feature his catalogue.  Herman's wide-eyed simplicity and unabashed sentimentality are perfectly suited to Morrow's open style of showbizzy performance.  You'll recognize all the other belters here; Carol Channing, Leslie Uggams, and Rita Moreno all join Karen, with Jerry at the piano (you'll never find a tribute to Jerry Herman happening anywhere which he himself does not attend, and usually participate in).
This week's Dance Party, which is really last week's, comes from a Jerry Herman tribute.  You'll recognize the Hollywood Bowl, where everyone gathered in 1994 to pay homage to Jerry;  Karen is singing a song from one of his flops, Dear World

That attempt to musicalize The Madwoman of Chaillot didn't succeed too well (though it won Angela Lansbury one of her Tonys), but it spawned this power ballad which continues to have life.  A belated Happy Birthday to Karen Morrow.  Keep on belting!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Friday Dance Party: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way Through The Alps

It's too early to call the coroner, even with the deadly comments regarding The Sound of Music Live.  This kind of event programming may have been bloodied by those reactions (and the show itself marred by two pretty stiff performances), but Live Television seems to be back.
Well, the public has spoken.  Despite universally negative reviews and a particularly virulent explosion on social media, the Public At Large loved this week's live broadcast of The Sound of Music
The power, and dread, of social media can be
daunting. Bette Midler had Broadway success
in a recent solo play, but when asked if she
would consider returning in a big musical
(both Dolly and Mame have been mentioned),
she revealed she could not handle the
onslaught of snark she would have to endure
on Twitter and Facebook.

It broke some substantial ratings records, and even that 19-35 demo which advertisers are so inclined to drool over watched the show.  Was it any good?  Well, many people thought it was an absolute abomination, with no redeeming features;  those folks have an elitist sensibility, I think, and cannot help but compare the broadcast to the film version, which has gained iconic status over the years.  Better not mess with Julie Andrews.
It's Apples and Oranges. Or at least, Apples and Applesauce, comparing the stage version to the film.  Underwood was in a no-win situation with theatrical types, who have pounded her performance into the ground. No, she wasn't much good (though she sounded fine in her numbers), but it was her participation which made the project happen.  It is no surprise to me that she brought in big ratings;  after all, before she became a country star, she was first and foremost a product of television.  Millions watched her weekly as she rose to win American Idol; it can be legitimately argued that her career was actually CREATED by TV viewers.  Why wouldn't they support her?
I'll confess that some of the show bored me (as any and all stage productions of The Sound of Music have always done), but there were many reasons to stick with it. 

Five time Tony winner Audra McDonald doesn't need another award, but she's gonna get one, come Emmy time.
Everybody seems to agree that Audra McDonald emerged from the project unscathed (look for an Emmy nomination there), and I think Christian Borle as Max and particularly Laura Benanti as Elsa were also worth watching. 
No one complained about stage vets
Laura Benanti and Christian Borle.

I mentioned on Facebook that I was very glad this project got off the ground, as it will now preserve the original stage show for posterity.  Yes, maybe we'd all prefer that the leading role had not been attempted by country singer Carrie Underwood, but you know what?  I give her big props for stepping out of her comfort zone and attempting something new;  the fact that that attempt occurred in front of 18.5 million people makes it even more courageous. 
Underwood's decision to tackle this
project displays courage, not hubris.

And those who insist the role should have been played by an actress with legit stage cred, well, the project may have been better but most likely would not have been made.  The economics of producing this gigantic musical (I've read the total budget exceeded 9 million dollars) required some bold thinking, and there is not a stage performer on the planet who would have enticed 18 and a half million people to their television.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are responsible for what critics thought was a trainwreck.  They also shepherded Hairspray to the big screen and earned the Best Picture Oscar for Chicago.  Their stage-to-small screen efforts include Bette Midler's Gypsy, Matthew Broderick's Music Man, and the Kathy Bates/Alan Cumming Annie.  Their racially diverse version of Cinderella included Whitney Houston and Bernadette Peters;  they remain committed to the preservation of the American musical.
So, despite a critical drubbing, there's money in those ratings numbers, and I have little doubt that another such event will eventually occur.  I love the idea of revisiting classic musicals;  producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron agree, as they are responsible for a number of stage-to-screen transfers. 
Yes, please, let's have a Mame, but one on film rather than
live.  Christine Baranski and Harriet Harris as Mame and Vera
are perfect, and as the mousy Gooch? Kristin Chenoweth
would tear it up.

I know Mame remains on their radar, though I hope they will eventually produce a TV remake on film, rather than a live performance.  No, I think the next live musical should be a slightly  smaller one, which could take place on an actual stage, in front of an actual audience. 
One of the complaints I heard regarding The Sound of Music was the fact that there was no audience, but really, how could there have been?  The producers took over an entire sound stage in Long Island in order to create what were pretty substantial sets.  To produce the show on a stage would necessarily shrink the production, which would not have been wise this first time out.  I enjoyed the look of the production, though others complained it looked like a soap opera.  The TV direction here was problematic:  there's no one around anymore who knows how to direct this kind of thing. Too bad Ralph Nelson isn't still here; he's the guy who brought the original Cinderella to  live TV (Go here for that Dance Party).
But next time, why not place the show in front of an audience?  I have a number of suggestions, but by far the one which I think would be the most appreciated is this one:
This film adaptation was a disaster.  The Sondheim score, one of his early gems, was largely dropped, and the charm of the show was surgically removed as well.  The piece is very theatrical, with an opening number which explains exactly that.  It's a single set, a smallish cast, and perfect for a live TV presentation with an audience present. 
Nathan Lane won the Tony for the most
recent Broadway revival, and I would
certainly place him in the leading role for TV.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum cries out to be archived in a version true to its original production.  Its fame does not come near that of The Sound of Music, so the cast should be peopled with actors with lots of recognition, but with musical comedy chops as well.  Nathan Lane has a national presence and must play the lead; I would surround him with a few folks with even bigger name recognition. 
Paging Robin Williams.  No, that's not Tevye, though he'd be a great one, but I suggest him to play Senex, the henpecked and randy father in Forum.  His vocal performance in the animated Aladdin proved he can sing (though the vocal requirements made of Senex are minimal).
Robin Williams would be perfectly cast as Senex, and would not be thrown by a live audience nor a live camera.  And as his domineering wife, Domina?
Kathy Bates belted the hell out of
Miss Hannigan in Annie, and would be
swell as the battle ax who inspired the
classic line, "Never fall in love during
a total eclipse."

Why, Bette Midler of course.  But as stated above, the Divine Miss M is hesitant to subject herself to Social Media Snark, so Kathy Bates will do just fine. 
Jesse Tyler Ferguson earns Emmy nods
for Modern Family, but has stage creds
from On The Town to Putnam County
Spelling Bee. He should shave his
current beard and play Hysterium.

Marcus Lycus, the procurer who lives next door, would be great fun for my favorite Christian Borle, and as the ancient Erronius, I'd invite one of our elder comic statesmen, perhaps Carl Reiner or even Mel Brooks.
Who's this guy?  Why, he's our Hero, of course.  Matthew James Thomas is currently playing Pippin on Broadway, a performance I have seen (and described here).  He would be a sweetly goofy Hero in Forum.
I'd turn to Broadway to cast the young lovers: Matthew James Thomas, Broadway's current Pippin, would be great as Hero, and there are any number of funny ingenues in New York right now who could handle Philia (or perhaps there's a likely candidate over on the Disney Channel).
"I AM A PARADE!" And Cheyenne Jackson
will be too, as pompous, vain, and gullible
Miles Gloriosus.

I know I'm daydreaming, as Forum certainly does not have the fame of The Sound of Music, but its relatively small cast and single set requirement would make it a great show to be broadcast live in front of an audience.  And if some of those well known names are attached, it could bring in some substantial numbers.

Perhaps those numbers won't match The Sound of Music's;  there was certainly a curiosity factor with this week's live event which may dissipate with the next one. 
Maybe Capt. von Trapp should have had a
beach scene. This guy's performance was
the real disappointment.

And it cannot be denied that, though Carrie Underwood's performance disappointed almost everyone, her name recognition is through the roof, having worked her way up the American Idol ladder in front of millions of viewers week after week. 
Nobody expected Underwood to wow us, but Stephen Moyer was expected to be good.  His performance was the big letdown, as far as I'm concerned.  I've never seen nor heard of him, he's from True Blood, and I haven't watched Vampire TV since Dark Shadows.  Apparently he has some musical cred, as he was in a concert staging of Chicago, but if this performance was any indication, his Billy Flynn must have Belly Flopped.
There can really only be one source for this week's Dance Party, and I've chosen one of the weaker songs in the score.  I am very pleased that the roles of Max and Elsa, which were severely reduced in the film version, can now be seen as the true supporting leads they are.  Both their songs were presented on Thursday, and were brand new to viewers who are only familiar with the film's soundtrack. 
The decision to remove the two songs sung by Max and Elsa for the film was probably a good one, but I'm glad to see them back.
Let's face it, neither tune is particularly memorable, nor do they stand up to the rest of the score, which is filled with songs you can't get out of your head.  The perky rhythm of "No Way To Stop It" belies its theme, which is, after all, appeasement of the Nazis for personal, selfish reasons.  But we get a nice glimpse of Borle and Benanti here, with Benanti particularly impressive.  Let's hope, this time next year, the Dance Party will be presenting "Comedy Tonight!"

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Friday Dance Party: Working On Thanksgiving

I am not one to be overly bothered by Christmas Creep.  It's standard procedure these days, for retailers to set out their holiday wares around Halloween. 

Costco gets a pass from me. Though their decorations were for sale in August, they were among the few big box stores to
buck the trend and remain closed for Thanksgiving.
Long gone are the days when the day after Thanksgiving was the special day when decorations popped up all over the place.  My beloved Costco, in fact, sets out their first Christmas Decorations for sale in August (but in their defense, they do not actually decorate the store, they are simply selling balls, bangles, and wrapping paper).  None of it bothers me in the least.

But this year, everybody is rightly riled about the expansion of Black Friday into Thanksgiving Day. 
This scene was repeated all over the country this week, but with a twist.  In past years, foolish morons started lining up  for the Big Black Friday Specials on Thursday night.  This year, people actually pitched their tents outside big box stores Wednesday night.  That's right, they ignored any Thanksgiving celebration in order to camp outside stores all night Wednesday and all day Thursday, just so they could be the first in the door to snag a special (which we are being told really isn't one: an examination of all those incredible "doorbuster" prices reflects that those prices are exactly the same as they were last year). 
What began as a trickle of stores last year is now a flood;  retailers all over the place began their holiday sales Thursday night this week, some as early as 6 PM.  This bothers more than 60% of the population, according to a poll I read, but it doesn't stop the rest of the country from camping out all day on Thanksgiving to get those Big Deals.  This bothers me as much as the next guy, as the biggest offenders here are the big box stores which pay their workers minimum wage;  these employees live on the edge of poverty and cannot afford to refuse to work, even on the holiday.  And because these stores stayed open over 24 hours, you can bet absolutely everybody on the payroll was working at one time or another. 
This was my first job as a waiter, at JoJo's Burgers and Brew, a glorified coffee shop. (I'm in the lower right hand corner.)  The restaurant was open 24 hours a day, and I worked many holidays, including Thanksgiving. Even once I graduated to steak houses, I still worked holidays.
Amid the outcry regarding this atrocity, I have heard nary a peep about the other workers who have always worked Thanksgiving.  I waited tables 13 solid years in Los Angeles, and I worked each and every one of those Thanksgivings. 
At Reuben's Summerhouse in Woodland
Hills, CA, holiday work was a given.
Everyone on staff worked New Year's
Eve, it was the biggest dinner of the year.
Management had a heart; they offered the
staff a bit of a choice for the other hols.
We could choose to take either
Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas
Day, or New Year's Day off, and work
the other three. I worked every
Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and
New Year's Day.

I worked every one of those New Year's Eves too, as well as many Christmas Eves, New Year's Days, and even a few Christmas Days, not to mention every Easter and quite a few Fourths of July.  But here's the difference:  though I did not have much of a choice to work these holidays, I was at least rewarded with a bump in income.  Patrons who chose to go out to eat for Thanksgiving and other hols were in generous moods, ordering liberally and tipping accordingly.  So, the waiter's income did indeed go up during those shifts.
This dude became a media hero this week.  He's Tony Rohr, and he worked for Pizza Hut 10 years, from lowly beginnings as a cook to his present position as general manager of an Indiana outlet.  During that time, the chain remained closed only two days each year: Christmas and Thanksgiving.  Until this week, when the owner of Tony's unit ordered the restaurant to remain open.  Rohr refused to force his employees to work, and was fired.  The outcry went national, and the corporation intervened, "encouraging" the local franchise owner to reconsider.  He's been offered his job back.
The brouhaha regarding workers being forced to work on Thanksgiving brought up lots and lots of memories of my time as a waiter.  I loved the work, as it was fast-paced, stimulating to the mind, and best of all, when you left the restaurant at the end of the shift, you had money in your hand.  There was something quite satisfying about working your tail off all night, and leaving with the immediate results of all that labor.
This oddball musical was a hodgepodge of styles, with music written by five, count 'em five, composers, including Craig Carnelia, Mary Rogers, Stephen Schwartz, and (get this) James Taylor. Its original cast included Patti Lupone, Bob Gunton, Joe Montegna, and Lynn Thigpen, but those heavy hitters could not save it;  the show closed after only 36 performances.
This week's Dance Party comes from Working, a musical which has a bit of a cult following these days.  It was not a success in New York in 1978, and the creators have tinkered with it incessantly ever since. 
This PBS adaptation is available on DVD.

Actors love it, as the musical numbers are all little monologues (very few group numbers), and always  accompany spoken speeches as well. So despite its failure in New York, the show has had a lively life on college and high school stages. 

Eileen Brennan as the Millworker in Working.
The show is really just a loose conglomerate of working people, from all walks of life, telling their stories, and is based on Studs Turkel's book of interviews, which he called Working:People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.
This week's star informs us that "It's An Art," and I agree.  Waiting tables is exhausting work, both physically and mentally, but if my body could still do it, I'd still do it.
I wrote a bit about the musical version of Working years ago when Turkel died, and included one of my favorite songs from the musical, written by James Taylor and performed by singer Jennifer Warrens, but enacted by the late great Eileen Brennan.  That clip, as does the one below, comes from the PBS adaptation of Working, featuring a starry cast but in a truncated version.  Here we have Rita Moreno describing her life as (you guessed it) a waitress.  The song is written by Stephen Schwartz, who did a bit better with Godspell and Wicked and Pippin.  In honor of all those unsung workers who break their backs and flatten their feet waiting tables on holidays, Happy Dance Party: